The Heinz Endowments believes strongly that southwestern Pennsylvania’s more than 220,000 veterans — about 50,000 of whom have served in Iraq or Afghanistan — are huge and undervalued assets in our region, and their well-being and reintegration and that of their families are just one example of a national challenge that we are attempting to address.
The Heinz Endowments’ vision for supporting Post-9/11 veterans
The Endowments focuses our veterans work on reducing the barriers to successful reintegration of Post-9/11 veterans into civilian life, concentrating on navigation of available services; reducing underemployment of veterans; fostering leadership skills development; presenting accurate perception of veterans as assets to communities; and advancing policy changes that represent the needs of our region’s Post-9/11 veterans. Watch this video to learn more.
In our veteran-focused grantmaking, we work to connect veterans with opportunities to lead and serve in our community. We are committed to making systems that care for veterans and military family members transparent and accountable, where the health and wellness of veterans supersedes the needs of any organization or individual. We work to refocus shallow stereotypes of veterans as broken or in need by highlighting their formidable talents. We partner with organizations that challenge them in positive ways.
We focus primarily but not exclusively on post 9/11 veterans to increase the amount of proactive and preventive resources available. The Pew Research Center’s October 2011 report, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era,” identified 44 percent of the post-9/11 veteran population as “at risk” as they leave the military. But this confirms that 56 percent of returning veterans reintegrate into civilian life seamlessly. Also contrary to popular perception, the overwhelming majority of the 44 percent identified as “at risk” do not struggle with significant mental health, physical health, or housing crises. Rather they are struggling, in large part, because of this faulty perception. This results in an inability to penetrate closed social networks, a misunderstanding of how their well-earned skill sets can be leveraged by employers, and a desire to serve without valued and vetted opportunities to do so.
The opportunity to support veterans and military family members is huge. One in 10 current residents of our region has served in the armed forces. They are all surrounded by families and friends. Collectively, this represents a large part of our Pittsburgh community and creates an incredible moment to leverage this resource to strengthen our city and its revitalizing neighborhoods.
Launched on Oct. 1, 2015, PAServes – Greater Pittsburgh is transforming and empowering veterans, service members and their families through a coordinated network established to meet their diverse needs. The program brings together service providers from across Allegheny, Westmoreland and Butler counties, creating a coalition of public, private and nonprofit organizations that offers a range of support for members of the veteran community. So far, 51 organizations participate in the network , which continues to grow and has been called “a social work dream” by a top VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System official. Pittsburgh Mercy Health System is the PAServes’ Coordination Center for the Greater Pittsburgh area. Learn more.
Needs Assessment: Veterans in Southwest Pennsylvania
In 2015, the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C., think tank specializing in national security issues, released the results of its comprehensive evaluation of veterans in the Pittsburgh region. The Heinz Endowments-supported study, “Needs Assessment: Veterans in Southwest Pennsylvania,” found that immediately after leaving military service, many of the region’s 235,000 veterans struggled with issues such as education, access to benefits and economic security. They also differed dramatically in how they felt about veterans benefits and their own well-being, depending on whether they served before 9/11 or after.
Uniform Champions: A Wise Giver's Guide to Excellent Assistance for Veterans by Thomas Meyer was published this year by The Philanthropy Roundtable. This is a follow-up volume to their first guidebook on this topic, Serving Those Who Served. Uniform Champions chronicles the most successful funders in this area and what they've learned through real-life experience about the best ways to boost men and women entering civilian life after military service.
Read The Heinz Endowments case study in this publication: Assets Not Victims.
Read the entire publication on The Philanthropy Roundtable website.
h Magazine articles
"Serving Those Who Served," by Mark Kramer. Issue 1, 2020. Shortly after PAServes was recognized for its successes in connecitng veterans to local services, the COVID-19 crisis created a new test for the netowrk's ability to coordinate support for servicemen and servicewomen.
"Fixing our Heroes' Welcome," by Jeff Fraser. Issue 3, 2015. No one said that coming home would be easy for veterans, but too often organizations that try to help end up making the transition more complicated. A new public-private network is providing veterans with streamlined access to needed services and better support of their readjustment to civilian life.